Note: I have wanted to write something for a long time. The words just never came. But here they are, and I hope that somehow Sarah stumbles across this and knows about this small piece of magic she’s given us.
Dear Sarah Dessen,
You know about worlds. You pull them from your attic, dust them off, and remind us that yes, they do have power.
They do make us pierce our lips and starve ourselves. They make us run an extra mile through a cornfield and submit to Friday nights bent over SAT vocabulary workbooks. They charm us at all the wrong moments and hinder us from closing our eyes at night.
They are often unkind.
Your words have challenged that meanness. They hold up protest signs at neighborhood bus stops, on high school bathroom mirrors, in front of classrooms full of peers who might as well be strangers.
Your words line up in neat rows of disorder and take back dignity lost circa 1995. Sometime before the Internet and cyberbullying really became the commentators on how to master senior high.
High school has changed since then, some say, to the point of misrecognition.
Others know better. You know better. You write those critics cryptic letters that say you know what they’re up to. You know they thought they could get away with slurred insults and drunken accusations.
You found the culprits and pinned those suckers to your word processor document. You did not supply them with a backspace key or an escape button. You made them squirm a bit.
And then you shipped them off to an agent in New York City, hoping the Manhattanites might have their “tough love” ways with them.
“Sit still, my darlings,” you said. “You are about to learn a lesson in messing with the sweet girls. The Quiet Ones. The remnants of tragedy and aftershocks of familial earthquakes.”
You promised those girls that there are often no ways of knowing where they’ll be tomorrow. But here, my darlings, are the cliff notes to rectify yesterday.
Here, you said, are the notes to the musical score you have been handed. And I know it looks like a jumbled mess and I know you just want it all spelled out and broken down but I cannot do that for you.
No one can do that for you.
So instead, you taught us about the finite forever, the anorectic struggling to love herself, the sweet boy whose life was cut short. The love we give up on and the sorrow we hold tight to. The spectrum of best friends from understanding to downright diabolical.
Yes, you introduced me to the word “diabolical” and so much more.
“Make sense of it,” you told us. “This is your story, your life, your therapy.”
And so we are left reading, piecing together fragments of our own lives for a new tomorrow.
You have given us that gift. And so we thank you, knowing it will never be enough.